The Mahakumbaabhishekam of Adi Annamalai temple
The Mahakumbaabhishekam ceremony was performed for the Adi Annamalai temple after 16 years. The last one was in 1996. The events leading upto the grand ceremony were begun on Tuesday, 10th July and the actual pouring of the holy waters on the gopurams took place on Sunday, 15th July. On Thursday, the splendidly decorated yaga salas were inaugurated and 108 sacrificial fires or yagnas were kindled in a spectacular manner during which the waters in thousands of pots or kumbhas were consecrated in preparation for the grand abhishekam.
It was indeed an awesome spectacle to witness the crescendo of the vedic chants, the exotic rituals surrounding the fires and the divine energy which seemed to pervade and rise with the passage of each day. More than 300 venerable brahmin priests hailing from the four vedic traditions of Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana took part with great devotion and expertise in all the ceremonies and devotees were treated to a sumptuous feast of religious extravaganza during all the 6 days.
The word Mahakumbaabhishekam literally means ritualistic pouring of sacred water from the great vessel. This type of ritualistic pouring of water dates back to hundreds of years to post-vedic times when temple rituals were formalized. During the vedic period, deities were invoked and propitiated in great rituals of fire sacrifices such as yagnas and homas, which were performed in the open. After this period, when temples were built for different deities, the divine energy/spirit was invoked by appropriate homas and transferred into kumbhas — brass or mud vessels containing the water of the holy rivers of Bharatavarsha — by chanting mantras derived from the Vedas and Samhitas. These mantras consisted of prayers to different deities for the well-being of mankind, guidance in performing religious duties properly, and instruction in following the four-fold duties of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. After the vigrahas of the deities were installed, the energy in the water in the kumbhas was transferred to the vigraha in the temple by pouring the water on the gopuram (top of the temple tower) and on the vigraha of the deity. This pouring from the Kumbhas was accompanied by the chanting of appropriate mantras derived from the Vedas, considered to be of divine origin.
According to the tenets of Vedanta , the living being is a part of the supreme consciousness which embodies the origin, sustenance and annihilation of the universe as we know it. It is beyond our human ability to comprehend this ultimate reality. The enlightened ones sometimes glimpse the Ultimate through meditation. The ordinary human offers obeisance and worship to the best of his ability to the personification of this supreme being in the form of the deity in the temples. He consecrates the Vigraha sculpted by the best artisan, and installs it in the temple built in the best architectural tradition. Divine energy is endowed on the vigraha by single-minded performance of worship in the best ritualistic tradition. Through the continued performance of worship by numerous people over generations, the divine energy in each vigraha builds up, and the temple as a whole grows in spiritual status.
And thus,on Sunday morning, July 15th, millions of devotees thronged the area around the Adi annamalai temple from 4 am. The previous night there had been an utter deluge of rain and people had to wade through oceans of water even inside the temple. The lucky few were admitted to the roof tops of the temple where they waited eagerly for the Kumbhas of holy water to be brought up. And sure enough around 9 am the pots arrived borne on the heads of brahmin priests to the loud chanting of the Rudrams. And then they were carried up by the stately Sivacharyas and finally, the waters were poured slowly over the spires of each gopuram hailed by cries of devotional fervour from the crowds below “Annamalaiyarukku haroharaa” !